On August 6, 1991, a little over 20 years ago, British physicist Tim Berners-Lee posted the first hyperlink to an online discussion group and began to transform the Internet to a public platform. Since that time, web-surfers and genuine users of the web for business and pleasure have felt that government censors were powerless to control what was said in cyberspace and that National boundaries became non-existent.
Now, 20 years later, governments around the world are trying to put the genie back in the bottle and stifle freedom of speech in many different ways. Why? Because the Internet has revolutionized how people act and think and has formed giant phalanxes out of a myriad of individual slivers. Governments now block online poker sites, track suspected terrorists’ cyber-footprints, and exercising power that they never before considered available to them.
One of the prime examples of government stifling freedom of speech is China. China has restricted access to the web for years and has eliminated governmental criticism. But Western governments are following suit, motivated by the popularity of eliminating child pornography, tracking criminals and terrorists, closing down web sites that feature stolen goods or copyright infringements, fighting cyber-attacks and cyber-wars and helping popular revolutions in third world countries overcome their governments.
Earlier this year, police in France were authorized to shut down suspected child porn web sites without a warrant; Tunisia and Turkey have proposed and in many cases enacted Internet filters to block pornography, which have also affected non-porn sites; the tyrannical rulers of Iran have shut down the World Wide Web completely and have started their own national Internet featuring whatever the Iranian government feels is appropriate to view.
Even here in the good old U.S. of A., policing in the name of the Patriot Act has shut down harmless and innocent web sites. The proposed IP Act, presently before Congress, would allow law enforcement to go after pirated online content without the benefit of 5th and 14th Amendment rights against illegal Search and Seizure and a taking of property without notice and a right to defend. Another bill being considered would require ISPs to keep customers’ browsing histories for a year to help police track down child pornographers. A fine line is being drawn between Government protection and Government intrusion.
Watch for Part II of this story coming soon.
Thanks for “listening”
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